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Choosing the right classical guitar can be hard if your experience lies more in the realm of steel strung instruments. What should you expect from a mid-price classical? Giorgio Serci finds out what's on offer from a prime mid market contender from Spain's Admira.
Admira has been making guitars in Spain since 1946 and the company has had a lot of success since then thanks to its wide range of well-crafted and reasonably priced models, but most importantly as a result of their use of best quality materials and highly skilled Spanish-trained luthiers. I first heard of this make in the 1990s, while visiting the UK distributor Barnes & Mullins, when they were still based in London. In those days, many of my London based colleagues were using Admira guitars, as these were great for day-to-day gigs, thanks to their overall quality, tone and playability, but also great for recordings.
Straight from its box (this guitar doesn’t come with a hard case), the A15 model has a beautiful combination of cedar and rosewood and is finished in high gloss. This is a classic and popular combination of tonewoods for classical guitar, as they produce a fuller tone, which is what is normally expected from a classical guitar. This handcrafted instrument features a well-finished classical style headstock with a stylish gold inlay of the brand’s initial letter. Framing the headstock are lyre design gold machine heads, which not only work really but also add an elegant touch to the guitar.
The A15 features a light ebony fingerboard, with a bone nut for maximum sustain. This is also enhanced by its traditional Spanish heel neck joint, which involves carving the neck and headblock from a single piece of wood. It's generally said that while this is a lot harder to do than fit a glued neck, you get a better tone and more sustain as a result.
It is a full size classical guitar and it has the traditionally wide neck, ideal for performing the classical repertoire, as well as for any solo guitar music.
As with most nylon string guitars, the neck meets the upper bout at the 12th fret, and it does so in a fluid and beautifully finished manner. The guitar doesn’t feature a cutaway, which is a good thing for a classical guitar, because it means it retains a well-balanced, full and defined tone across the registers.
The main ingredients for the Admira's body are solid cedar for its top, Indian rosewood for back and sides and mahogany with rosewood reinforcement for its neck. The latter is evident on the neck and it enhances the instrument’s sturdiness as well as its attractiveness. Also aiding resonance, intonation and tone is the use of a rosewood bridge. To complete the details, a rather elegant rosette and purfling add another elegant touch to the aesthetic of this instrument.
Playing this guitar, a balanced response, as well as the sweet and equally present timbre, is noticeable across the registers. The action is quite comfortable, and this could be easily adjusted further for an even more personalised outcome. Beautiful craftsmanship is evident from the headstock to the lower bout, which flows in a harmonious and refined manner.
As you can hear from my demo, this guitar sounds lovely when recorded straight through a condenser mic. Alternatively, you could easily add a non-invasive pickup system for live work. I would advise drill-free methods if you do, however, in order to maintain intact the guitar's original rich tonal characteristics.
I really like the generous bass response, which sounds warm but also clear and defined. The mid range is very balanced and responsive with wide range of tonal colours from sweet to bitingly piercing, ideal for the Spanish repertoire, but also to outline countermelodies often written in that range in classical guitar music. The treble has a very sweet bell-like tone, but it has also the quality to project and cut through.
Over the years Admira has produced a wide variety of mid-price-range classical and Flamenco guitars, earning a very good reputation for making well-crafted, reliable and affordable instruments, as well as for offering a wide range of sizes (cadete guitar ¾, senorita guitar 7/8 and requinto guitar ½) and this guitar fully lives up to the company's reputation for quality.
In terms of its finish, playability, tone as well and an affordable price, the A15 is a perfect guitar for the avid classical guitarist, as well as for the guitarist looking for an instrument which records beautifully or/and can be used for live work. The fact that the instrument is handcrafted is definitely a plus, particularly for a classical or acoustic guitar, as it ensures the guitar has been assembled with care and attention to detail and refined to a higher standard.
I strongly recommend finding an Admira dealer and trying the A15. I am confident you’ll be impressed with its overall quality and the excellent value for money.